Of all the things Timothy Leary was famous for--experimenting with LSD, being asked to leave his professorship at Harvard, getting arrested for pot possession, breaking out of prison, getting sent back to prison, experimenting with LSD, running with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, promoting the Internet and virtual reality, documenting his own death from prostate cancer, experimenting with LSD--his artwork probably falls somewhere just above his favorite type of sandwich.
But one series of art, called 23 Word Play Drawings, is a result of the rest of his life, combining the project to record his death with his famous slogan "Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out," a one-time promotional tool for LSD, to produce almost two dozen works the last year of his life based on that well-known motto. All were created using a stream-of-consciousness technique and focused on creating wordplays on the 1960s counterculture mantra.
Now these works, plus memorabilia and artifacts from Leary's life, and art by a few of his friends are being displayed under the name that's another wordplay: Tune In, Turn On, Go Deep, a nod to Leary's catchphrase and also a tie-in with the Deep Ellum Film Festival, which is sponsoring the event along with Global Fashion News. Besides 23 Word Plays and Leary's personal items, there are pieces by William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Ram Dass and a few other fellow '60s icons; "raw home video" of Leary by Joey Cavella and Chris Graves; and, on Thursday and Friday only, the documentaries Return Engagement, Timothy Leary's Last Trip and Tune In, Turn On, Drop Out.
There are two additional exhibits intertwined with Leary as well. The first is by photographer Dean Chamberlain, who suggested the exhibition to Leary himself. Chamberlain's exhibit here includes his portrait of Leary, plus Leary's contemporaries such as Dass, and his "Forests of Light" series. All of his works combine a special technique of photographing in darkness and leaving the shutter open for very long exposures while he uses lights to illuminate different elements one at a time. The result is color photographs with certain figures, items and pathways lit up like neon while the rest are bathed in shadows.
Finally, Stacy Valis, who has produced a portrait of Chamberlain, adding another branch in this exhibit's family tree, contributes her nature photography. But these aren't simple landscapes. They're more abstract with the frames highlighting particular aspects of a larger landscape--for example, a line of tree tops beneath a cornflower blue sky or a white wave rolling onto a just-visible shore. Valis says her works "relate the feeling she experiences when meeting nature."
Leary's drawings may never make it into a fine art museum or surpass his drug experiments and advocacy in popularity, but for now it's a way to get in touch with a man who believed in the power of being in touch with others and one's self. Now that's deep.
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